In one of my previous writing tips, I discussed how distracting (and annoying) overusing certain gestures can be for your readers. The same can be said for overusing uncommon adjectives.

I recently finished a book in which the main character was described as "astonished" so frequently that I stopped reading and (once again) used the search function on my Kindle to see just how many times the word had been used. The tally? Fifteen. Now I realize that fifteen is hardly an exorbitant figure, but while "astonished" is a great adjective, it's also quite memorable, so by its third or fourth appearance it was hard not to notice it. For the record, I encounter this problem with my own writing all the time. When I find myself using an unusual word more than a few times, I use the "find" function in Word to make sure it's not getting out of hand.

Here's the deal: You want your readers to be fixated on your story, not on how many times you've used a specific word. Unfortunately, in this particular instance I became fixated on the latter. That may just be my obsessive personality, of course, but right or wrong, the end result was that I didn't enjoy the story as much as I could have. Each time I encountered another "Ben was astonished," the pleasurable experience of being immersed in a novel was interrupted.

The novel in question was published independently, so I'm not sure if the author had a professional copyeditor review the manuscript. But if you're going the indie route, I cannot stress enough how important it is to have objective eyes review your work before you click "publish." If you can't afford to hire a professional, bribe your English-major pals to help. A red pen in the early stages is your friend!


Maria Murnane is the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services to aspiring and published authors. Have questions? You can find her at


This blog post originally appeared on Reprinted with permission. © 2016 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.

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